Creative Discipline

Cambridge University collaborative PhD supervisor

Since 2014, Dominic Cullinan of SCABAL has been a Collaborative PhD Supervisor with Cambridge University Faculty of Education.

Three Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) studies supervised between Dr Catherine Burke, historian of education in the Faulty of Education at the University of Cambridge and Dominic Cullinan, architect and Director of SCABAL specialising in school design.

Each study gains from partnership between academia and practice, connecting with a variety of perspectives and experience within the Faculty of Education, the University of Cambridge and the wider academic community, as well as within SCABAL and the wider professional and other communities of architecture, the built environment and education.

Doctoral students, Emma Dyer, Karolina Szynalska and Tom Bellfield tread their own individual paths that both intertwine and diverge along many tangents, benefitting from these close collaborations.

All three studies are funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council under their CDA scheme, whose guidance explicitly states the requirement for research to emerge from genuine collaborations of mutual benefit.

Research, guidance, dreaming and teaching

Research, development and communication underpin everything we do at SCABAL.

Operating beyond the typical business of architects (designing buildings and administering them to completion) this work is purposefully academic and practical at the same time.

Beginning with a brief in question, we’ve taken time to explore and test certain limits and have done our best to develop this into studies with a degree of effect, impact and influence.

All in order to feed back into the typical business of architects and building and everybody affected by them.

Published guidance

SCABAL has been commissioned to work on a range of research projects, publications and government guidance in relation to environments for education (BB94 Inclusive School Design ISBN 0-11-271109-X, Building Education, ISBN 0-85473-652-2, Being Involved in School Design CABE)


We’ve chosen to work on many design competitions over the past twenty years, will continue to do so and have shown some of our favourites here below. Excitement, passion, argument, exhaustion, enlightenment and entertainment for the whole studio. After all, winning can’t have been the only reason for taking part.


Both directors have run studios in UK architecture schools including the AA, the RCA, Sheffield and Cambridge Universities and internationally at Dalhousie University in Canada. They regularly act as visiting critics in the UK and around the world.


As architects our objective is always to make good architecture by seeing and creating value through the framing of everyday experience. But we also have a responsibility, forwards to legacy and backwards to history. This sense of continuity is reinforced by the transience of a single client’s occupation, passing through in varying degrees.

Clients are guardians rather than strictly patrons or owners of good buildings that last. As we can look back over hundreds of years we might also expect to look forward to the same extent. In relation to its use, the time taken to design and make a sustainable building is short so, as architects, we need to be vigilant.

We understand our clients as a community, one having many voices, some dissonant, some in accord, some alive today, some resonating from the historic fabric and others yet to be heard. We therefore relish the prospect of being temporarily central to this discourse in the making of new buildings, giving lasting shape to this carefully listened-for brief moment in time.

Imaginative architecture, imagined buildings

As architects, we behave as explorers / archaeologists / forensic scientists / translators.

When we design buildings, we like to believe that they pre-exist in some sense, with our role to find them, to somehow make solid something that already exists as dissipated thought, yet to be given shape.

We therefore speak of originality in the ancient sense, whereby we would be seeking the origin of something, its essence. Our job is therefore to imagine ourselves as being able to see this other reality and bring it into our own.

This point of view implies we require the means of seeing into and researching context, which can be both geographical in the place of the site and societal in the makeup of the people concerned with a building’s genesis and use. These circumstances of discovery inevitably shape what is discovered so that the pre-existent building is like some chemical entity that can take a number of forms depending on the solidification process employed and the protagonists involved.

Our buildings are part of an ongoing discourse which is both academic in the long term and practical in the meantime. Good buildings are weatherproof, useful, liveable-in, and functional in measurable ways but they can also be inclusive, instructive, iconic, nurturing, exciting and poetic.

Architects   Client Advisers   Listed Buildings   Masterplans   Feasibility Studies

Selected Projects